There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” But, what do you do if “now” is the middle of summer?
In most areas of the US, the ideal times to plant trees are early to mid-spring and early fall. If you didn’t get around to planting this past spring, or your trees were late in arriving, it is still possible to plant in summer. It’s a tricky season to plant in, so we’re sharing some factors to consider before you decide whether to plant, and then how to take good care of your trees when you do.
When is a Bad time to plant in summer?
You can establish trees during the summer months with some special attention. One of the first things to consider is strategically picking a good time to plant and avoiding the worst times.
You should always take a look at the upcoming weather forecast when deciding whether to plant trees in summer. If the extended forecast shows high temperatures of 85 degrees F or above, strong winds, or drought conditions, it’s best to postpone your planting. Newly planted trees suffer from transplant shock, which means they’ll be particularly susceptible to stressful weather like heat and wind.
If you live in a hot area of the country, your summer weather may not be conducive to planting at all.
If you have a vacation coming up that will mean you won’t be around to water your newly planted trees on a regular basis, we don’t advise planting.
When is a good time to plant trees?
The ideal time to plant trees spring through fall is when the weather is cool, cloudy and rainy. These weather conditions are less likely to cause extra stress to a newly planted tree. If you live in a locale where this is your typical summer weather, then you’re in luck! You’ll be able to plant anytime you want.
Trees planted in summer need some extra care and attention, so make sure you’ll be sticking close to home for the several weeks following planting, or schedule a reliable friend or neighbor to stop by and water regularly for you.
Worst places to plant trees in summer
Now that you’ve learned when to think about planting trees, let’s discuss the best and worst places to plant them.
When you’re walking around your property looking for the best locations to plant trees, here’s where not to plant if you can avoid it:
- Exposed sites that get a lot of sun and wind.
- Areas with very sandy soil because they’ll dry out quickly in the summer heat and dryness.
- A wet and mucky area of your property, especially if you get heavy summer rains or if you frequently irrigate your lawn. Consistently wet soil conditions deprive the tree roots of oxygen.
- Compacted areas, such as soil around new construction or where heavy equipment has been stored. It will be difficult for the root system to get established, which determines the future success of the tree.
- In front of a highly reflective surface – windows, siding, garage – because it will be extremely hot and sunny.
- Close to a dryer vent, A/C unit, or anything else that exhausts heat.
- Locations far away from a water source.
Ideal places to plant trees in summer
Here are some things to look for when you’re assessing your yard for locations that will work for summer planting.
- Areas providing some wind protection from structures, fences or other trees.
- Partially shaded locations if you’re planting trees or shrubs that don’t require full sun.
- Spots you can easily reach with water.
Tips for planting in summer
If you do decide to move ahead with planting trees in summer, this is a great time to think about tree placement. Are there areas you can plant trees that will provide you with summer shade during the hottest months of the year? A strategically placed tree, on the south or southwest side of your house in the Northern Hemisphere, can offer dramatic cooling effects in summer by shading your house and releasing moisture, which lowers the surrounding air temperature.
The #1 most important thing to remember when planting trees in summer is to water, water, water. And water some more!
That being said, you do need to be careful not to water too much. If you have heavy or compacted soil it may be too wet if you water every day. Consistently wet soil cuts off the oxygen supply to the tree’s roots. If you have lighter soil you can likely water more often.
But, you also want to make sure not water too infrequently. You don’t want the root system to dry out, either. Ideally the roots remain consistently moist, never water-logged and never dried out.
Pay special attention to watering during periods of high heat, strong winds, or drought conditions.
How do you know when it’s time to water? You can treat a newly planted tree or shrub like a houseplant! Use your finger to dig down below the mulch layer and into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.
Read our in depth article about how often to water new trees.
And, finally, mulch your trees! Next to watering, mulching is arguably the best practice for keeping newly planted trees healthy long term. Mulch protects the soil and tree roots from from things like heat, cold, and drought. As it breaks down it also improves the soil around the tree by adding organic matter.
Learn the many benefits of mulching, best practices for putting mulching around trees, the best types of mulch to use and where to source it. Oh, and how to avoid mulching volcanoes! Read more about how to put mulch around a tree.
If you do decide to plant trees in summer this year, we hope this article has set up you to provide your trees with the best chance of long term health and success.
You can find more great tips in our article about How to Set Newly Planted Trees Up For Success.